Recovery Diary 08/30/18

Dragonfly miracles

The fan buzzes to my left like a powerful and entrancing dragonfly. I used to be mesmerized by dragonflies and in some ways I still am. Three summers ago I went back to treatment. I had to stay in these supportive living apartments for people with eating disorders and mood problems. On my first night, I walked into my assigned apartment to find all the lights turned off, heavy metal blaring, and two shadowy figures on the couch. No one said hello. I put my bags down and left. I didn’t feel welcome there.

The apartment was downtown Chicago, right next to Millennium Park. So I took the elevator down the 27 or 37 floors- I can’t quite remember- and bee-lined it for the outdoor stadium. It was humid and hot. Mid-August in Chicago so it is to be expected. I sat in a long sleeved shirt and pants because god forbid someone see my fat thighs and thumpy arms. They tell me to gain weight. I tell them to screw off. But none of that mattered as I sat there. Alone. Scared. Lost. Unable to comprehend how I got to this place again. I leaned back to lie down in the lawn and there I saw them. Hundreds upon hundreds of dragonflies. Buzzing, flying, dancing, mesmerizing me.

No one believed me. they said I must have imagined it. why would there be a swarm of dragonflies randomly in Millennium park which no one else witnessed. I don’t care what they say. I don’t care what they think. Whether imagined or real, the dragonflies were there. they danced for me, performing a composition I needed in that moment. A moment of fear and loneliness, a moment of questioning, and there they were. All these weird bugs keeping me company and making me feel a little less alone.

Maybe it is sad to think that bugs were my only source of company. Or maybe it is sad for someone looking into my life, my story, because they don’t understand the experiences that lead up to that moment. Being alone and able to have a moment to sit and reflect on my emotions, to witness the dragonflies, it felt like a miracle to me. Everything since starting to fight for recovery felt like a miracle to me.

It is amazing how dark times can be and how light at the same time. It’s the yin and yang, the good and the bad, the angels and the demons. I have a lot of both I have decided. My demons are simply louder beings while the angels are respectful and pleasant.  They scream and scream and scream about my dirty little used up no good for nothing body. I have learned to sit and wait it out. To let them throw their fit. Scream and yell and make me feel like shit, that’s how they get pleasure.

It all comes back to the dragonflies. I see miracles every day. I look in the mirror and see a miracle. I let myself have the slice of cake and I witness a million miracle. I am blessed by hundreds of dancing dragonflies that no one else sees. I pet a shark underwater and feel as if I have just uncovered the truth about the entire order of the universe. I see angels in my bedroom as a child. I hear whispers of love when I am alone and scared. I run through forests and the trees sing to me. I look up at the sky and tears fall down my cheeks because I know. I know more than anyone else that up there something is orchestrating a shit town of miracles for us to encounter every day, but if you aren’t looking you’re going to miss them. you see, I’ve been through enough hell to notice when somethings not from the pits of fire and despair. All I have known is burning sensations and tears of Clorox. So when I feel a breeze of goodness or taste to words of kindness, I see these things, I feel these things, I understand these things on a different level. These touches of light, the new song on the radio, the text from a friend, the hug from a stranger, the parking spot in the front row- these are miracles. Some of us are just too blind to see.

In Bloom

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at

“When I look at my roses I remember that life happens in cycles. We can’t – and shouldn’t – be flowering all the time. Life needs rest periods, dark periods, time to cut back – sometimes down to the ground. Time to put out new shoots. And no perennial can thrive year on year unless its roots are strong, deep and nourished. When you live close to nature you learn that we are nature. We all need the same things.”

-Jeanette Winterson, in the June issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK

I think I feel most connected to myself when I am surrounded by nature. It is simultaneously calming and invigorating – the soft breeze fluttering through the trees, ruffling the light green underbellies of the leaves so they catch the evening sun just so.

Its part nostalgia – my childhood was full of bare feet on soft grass and building hideaways in the woods– and part orienting myself in the present moment. Just going for a walk outside can be such a good mindfulness exercise – focus on tuning all the senses into your experience. What do I see? What do I hear? What can I taste? By activating all of my senses, I find myself focusing on the birds singing, the child playing with a soccer ball in the park, the hint of sweat and dust on my lips, rather than the swirling thoughts in my brain.

If I ever need to clear my head, I just get myself outside. Sometimes that means a lovely stroll on a bright summers’ day, searching for flowers & listening to the bees buzzing as they fly past. But it can also mean leaning into a blah mood by taking the long route home on a gray, drizzly afternoon, seeing how the familiar neighbourhoods can have a completely different personality depending on the weather, my mindset, and maybe the soundtrack I am listening to. I appreciate a moody, movie-score walk down the street every now and then – I am still connecting to whatever it is I’m feeling, acknowledging it, really feeling it, and then getting on with my day.

Connecting with nature also helps me to see the world on a grander scale – to escape my anxieties and understand that we really are meant for so much more. Just ponder for a moment the scale of an oak tree – it has probably been rooted there for decades, watching the world go by, observing change and turmoil and peace and the mundane everyday.

I also use nature as a form of self-expression – part of my core identity involves a deep love and appreciation for beautiful things, which expresses itself in my passion for fashion and interior decoration. I love a good floral print, and I delight in finding new floral-inspired pieces, mixing them into my wardrobe and collecting different designs. I also love to surround myself with fresh blooms, and I use the Sunday flower market as self-care. If I am ever sad or I have plans canceled and I don’t know what to do with myself, I schedule a prompt trip to an outdoor market. Just strolling through rows of peonies, tall, demanding sunflowers, cascading vines & bright dahlias, brings me so much pure joy.

The metaphor of nature helps me connect with myself. The narrative of impermanence and of natural cycles, the reminder that we are not meant to bloom all year round – all of these are wrapped into mantras I hold close. Much like plants, we need water, sunlight, attention, and patience in order to grow and stay healthy. And sometimes a raging forest fire may come through and burn everything to the ground – but wildflowers are the first thing to grow back, and they often come back even more beautiful than before.

My mom has always told me that I should use going for a walk as part of my toolkit, as part of my mental health prescription. If I feel anxious, go for a walk. If I know I should move my body but can’t muster up much energy, go for a walk. If I need to clear my head, go for a walk. This advice has continued to ring true year after year and also seems to work when I need to connect with myself. If I need to spend some time with Madeline, remind myself of who I am and what I love, spending some time in nature always does the trick.


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How do we know beauty?  How have we come to our perception of beautiful?  What if we were to deconstruct the ideals of beauty to its foundation, the bare bones, the roots of what beauty was intended to be known as? What would that beauty look like?

There is something really healing that comes from being in nature.  A humbling effect that washes over you when you realize just how complex the world is, a sense of being a small part of something greater.  It is an ability to see beauty as it was created and intended to be. Not a beauty as a result of manipulation but one of authenticity in its creation.

Try looking at a leaf as an example. Zoom in on that leaf until you see all the veins, the crevices, the formational patterns atop its surface.  Look so close that you become aware of the smallest details. Focus on them. Take them in.  When you feel like you have a total picture of the leaf’s design, zoom out and focus on the all the leaves in the tree. The mass of the leaves and what shapes they form.  Then include multiple trees and their leaves in your visualization.  See what a group of trees look like. Keep zooming out, adding in more and more components to your stream of thought until you become aware of the magnitude, the scale, the vastness of the world.  Tree. Woods. Entire state. Country. Continent. World. Space. Galaxies. Planets.

There is something healing in nature because it is just so large.  We are able to contemplate its vastness and come to the conclusion that we are not the designer of such a massive masterpiece.  In knowing we are not the creators we are able to rest in the wonder of it all.  Nature has power in this way. It is something that we can look at and know it appears as it was intended to.  After all, you wouldn’t look at a tree in the woods and complain that the leaves were too green or the trunk was too bumpy.  You look at a tree and think, wow what a beautiful tree. In the same way that you wouldn’t look at a lake and wish the water was firmer or the ripples were more distinct.

Why is it that when we look at ourselves the standards we hold for the tree or the lake suddenly fall apart?  Why is a tree, a natural, organic, unique structure different than a body?  Are we not all organically made?  Are we not all intrinsically different? Leaves don’t need to be greener and hair doesn’t need to be blonder.  Trunks don’t need to be smooth and stomachs don’t have to be flat.  Water is fluid and thighs jiggle.  Ripples come in accordance to the wind and muscles flex in relation to activity.  We are the same as the elements we call beautiful.  Our bodies are a beautiful collection of mountains and valleys, ripples and leaves.  We are natural masterpieces, an organic phenomenon.  We are living, breathing, constantly evolving creatures and why is it that this fact alone cannot be beautiful?

Our lungs rise and fall to the rhythm of our breath.  Our hearts beat every second.  Our veins carry blood, red warm fiery blood to every organ of our body.  Our brains are electric. Tongues can taste. Ears can hear. Hands feel texture, temperature, and moisture. Stomachs speak. Muscles grow. Are you grasping just how insanely complex our bodies are?  The very act of being human is beautiful. Not to mention that we are one person in a world of billions.  Billions and billions of people, all unique, all different, all whose bodies are working under different freedoms or constraints. In the same way you zoomed in on a leaf and then zoomed out to conceptualize the entire universe.  Think about the heart beating in your chest in relation to billions of other hearts doing the same thing.  How many hearts do you think are in sync with yours?

I am at an artist’s residency in Michigan called Oxbow this week where I am taking a class exploring the theory of body in relation to things.  The Thinging Body, is the title of the class and in it we are discussing the art of objects.  What objects are? How can a body both be aware of an object and unaware at the same time?  For example, how can your body play off of the movement of grass? How can you become like grass? How can you become light and blow in the wind?  How can you bend in accordance to an element that you yourself are not subject to, being a solid dominant mass?

To answer questions like you must take time to truly look at things.  To look and think about what you are looking at.  To stare at your hand and meditate on the abilities it offers you.  With a hand you can grab, make, mold, hold, write.  Without your hand those things would become very complicated.  Same goes for feet, hair, a stomach, veins. I have been thinking of the body as a collection of objects, a collection of parts, a combination of machines working together to create me.  And me is not you or them or anyone else.  We each have our own set of machines working inside of us to make us who we are.  In the same way that each tree has a different collection of leaves making them what they are. Yet, we are all bodies.  We are all human.  We are the same and not at the same time.  We are complex and universal all at once.

What if you looked at your body this week with the same fascination as the mountains or oceans?  What if you treated the machines that you have been gifted, the machines that work together to give you breath, thought, passion, and love under the same standards as the galaxies?  What if you looked at your hand and was blown away by the possibilities is offers you?  How would this shift in mindset change your week?  How would you treat yourself different if you looked in the mirror and pictured a powerful, complex, and stunning old oak tree?  Roots and water, trunks, leaves and ripples, our bodies have them all.  Our bodies are the objects in nature we come to understand most intimately.

Forget diet magazines or unrealistic perceptions of women in media.  Forget the talk of eating too much or too little at the table.  Forget the obsession society has with painting faces with makeup every morning or wearing dresses that flatter your figure.  Take yourself away from the zoomed in standards that the world preaches as “beautiful” and realigned yourself with what is truly beautiful in life.  Nature.  And you are a natural wonder because body is a naturally complex thing.  Let it be as it was intended to be.